The story is about Ajay, a boy who like most engineering aspirants goes to Kota but end up getting attached to the place.
Ajay entered the hotel room relieved that it was finally over. After all, it was two years of hard-work and determination and all for this day. The JEE did not go as smoothly as he had expected but it was nonetheless, satisfactory. After a quick look at his performance he started packing.
It had been almost 2 years since he was away from home. It was dusk and his train was scheduled well past midnight, at 2AM. He finished his packing well in time and rested for it had been a hectic day. As he laid down to rest, several thoughts of Howrah crossed his mind. His mind ran over the majestic bridge while another part of it was savouring the delicious roadside ‘puchkas’. As his mind was wandering over the banks of the mighty Ganges, he was finally going to feel at ‘home’.
Home? Was he ever going to feel at home in Howrah? No, for his heart was elsewhere. His heart could not leave Kota though he had physically left the place a week back. He was in Jaipur to give the JEE exam.
Two years back, Kota had seen a nervous boy of 16 alight its platform with his father. The child silently followed his father to the hostel chosen by him. On the way, he saw his coaching institute. Silently the thought crossed his mind, ‘This will be deciding my future.’ His father left after making the necessary arrangements. Ajay was alone in the new city which in no way resembled his home. He could sense competition everywhere from students to coaching institutes and from hostels to auto-rickshaw drivers. Life was going to be tough.
Ajay’s hostel was luxurious but the food there was awful. Adjustment was the key. He could not eat outside everyday however, delicious the food outside had been. The coaching institute, quite in contrast to its appearance, was a lovely place to learn just because of its teachers. Some teachers had left an indelible mark on his conscience. They taught him to be self-reliant and to accept failures gracefully. While some of them inspired the students by their sheer academic brilliance, some left the class giggling at their ‘honest’ recollections of their life.
These were not the things for which Ajay chose to remember Kota. He yearned to see his friend there, he thought he would never make. Ajay was an introvert, highly unlikely to make friend in those surroundings. Fate had something else in store for him. He had two friends from Howrah who were staying in the same hostel as him but it was not with them his friendship grew. Ajay’s heart constricted as he wandered down the memory lanes.
He remembered the walks to the nearby mall, after dinner accompanied with Prakhar and Ayush. The distance would be covered by any sane man in almost 5 minutes but we took almost half an hour. Despite, the busy schedule of each one of them they found time for each other just to gossip about their teachers, their classmates or their teachers. One person particularly talked about was Ajay’s roommate, Jatin. Jatin had created quite a bad name for himself owing to his moon-like temperament or his way of living.
He recalled how once on Prakhar’s birthday. They had searched the whole city in search of pink goggles and a pink hair band. The birthday was celebrated with full fervour and enthusiasm as result of which Prakhar’s room was left in a messy situation. It was then that Prakhar told them that his parents would be visiting him that very night. This blew the lights out of everybody present there and everyone joined in the work to clean his apartment. No sooner had his parents entered the room than we had finished the cleaning. We were all glad that the job was finally done. Ajay stared at the ceiling as if the whole scene was being enacted there.
He recalled their trips to ‘Tatva’, the best restaurant of the place on occasions, the sudden movie plans and the late-night elaborate discussions on inconsequential topics.
He missed the Dussehra of Kota which matched the Durga Puja of Bengal in its grandeur and crowd making Ajay feel at home in Kota.
He also had his share of hard times, when he had fights with Jatin, when he failed to meet his expectations in the monthly examinations, when he felt nostalgic, when he was disappointed by his friends. As Ajay saw now, these where the times which had made him the person he was.
His mind stopped by the Instrumentation Township. This place held a special meaning to Ajay with its open fields and a variety of birds. Whenever Ajay felt bored or aimless, he would go this place in search of answers. The place had nothing to offer but peace. It was quite in contrast to the hustle and bustle of Kota. The place became their football stadium in summers and the badminton ring in winters. The township was the ideal place to forget worries and embrace the freshness of nature.
Ajay now looked at the clock. It was almost time to leave. He called the cab and reached the station in no time. The train was standing on the platform. He stood on the platform as if deciding whether to board the train or not. He recalled the words of his elder brother,’ you will be in tears when your enter Kota or when you leave it.’ It had been a week since he had left Kota, but the feeling was now sinking in. He had no other option for he had to be practical.
The joys were only for two years and so was the independence. Now, he had to return. The whistle of the train blew, reminding the passengers to board the train and informing everyone of its departure. Unwillingly, Ajay entered the train compartment. Hardly did he enter when the train started. With tears in his eyes Ajay saw the receding platform of Jaipur, hoping someday that he might again visit the land by the Chambal.